EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Dallas Cowboys started the Giants’ season-opening nightmare on a warm night in September and they pretty much ended New York’s dream of a miracle comeback on a cold blustery night in November.
With five weeks to go in the regular season, Tony Romo and the Cowboys will have a chance to win the NFC East in a two-team fight with Philadelphia after knocking off New York on a 35-yard field goal by Dan Bailey on the final play Sunday.
While Bailey made the kick, Tony Romo threw two touchdowns and engineered the game-winning, 14-play drive that moved the Cowboys (6-5) into a first-place tie with the idle Eagles and crushed the playoff hopes of the tough-talking Giants (4-7), who had won four straight after losing their first six.
Some Giants players predicted a blood bath ahead of Sunday’s matchup. Terrell Thomas even guaranteed a New York win.
“Everyone understood how important the game was for both teams,” said Romo, who hit Jason Witten on TD passes of 20 and 2 yards. “They won four in a row to put themselves back into position. They had a home game. I could tell by their words leading up to it that they were confident. That’s what makes the game great. It was a big buildup, but we understood that the game was going to be played on Sunday.”
Romo was 6 of 9 passing for 67 yards, including two crucial third-down throws, on the winning drive that covered the final 4:45. It came right after New York tied the game on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Louis Murphy Jr., and a 2-point conversion run by Andre Brown, who rushed for 127 yards.
Wide receiver Dez Bryant, who kept the drive alive with a 19-yard catch on third-and-7 from the Dallas 23, said Romo had one message entering the final huddle.
“We’re about to do down there and score this touchdown and win,” Bryant recalled Romo saying.
It was about the only mistake Romo made in the closing minutes. However, a field goal was just as good.
The Giants were trying to become the second NFL team to win five straight games after losing their first six. Now, they have to win their final five to have any chance, and even that might not be good enough.
“I’m disappointed,” defensive end Justin Tuck said. “I thought we played decent but not as well as we have been the past four weeks. We had an opportunity to win a football game. The effort was good, we just didn’t execute as good as we have in previous weeks.”
Dallas has all the tiebreakers if they finish tied. Even more troubling for Tom Coughin’s team is that 11 of the 16 teams in the NFC have better records than the Giants.
“I think our mindset is we’ve got to win five,” said Manning, who also threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Myers. “We’ve got five games left and we have to win every one. That’s the only way that will possibly give us a chance. We don’t know if that’s going to be good enough, but that’s the only way.”
That was Coughlin’s message to the team.
“There are five games to go,” he said. “We’ve got it back in this position. We won four in a row. We had a setback today. We have five games to play, one game at a time. Let’s prepare as hard as we can and go win a game.”
Jeff Heath scored Dallas’ first touchdown, returning a Victor Cruz fumble 50 yards. Josh Brown kicked two field goals for New York, which rallied from a 21-6 deficit with less than seven minutes left in the third quarter.
Five things learned as the Cowboys swept the season series from the Giants for the first time since 2007.
JONES FACTOR: Coming off an embarrassing loss to New Orleans in the week before the bye and facing a big game with the Giants, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones took a lot of the pressure off his team this past week by announcing that Jason Garrett would be returning as coach in 2014 despite an inconsistent season. The bottom line was Dallas didn’t look anything like the team that gave up 49 points to the Saints.
GIANTS RED ZONE: The Giants were horrible inside the Cowboys’ 10. They had to settle for short field goals in the first half after getting first-and-goal situations at the 9 and 4. First down killed both drives. A 1-yard pass to Myers on the first one and a 6-yard loss on a run by Brown on the second. New York was 27th in the league coming into the game and they got a TD just once in three tries against Dallas.
TALKING BIG: The Giants did all the big talking this week and it didn’t work. Terrell Thomas guaranteed a win and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said the Giants would bleed the Cowboys. Dallas kept quiet and played the game. Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher felt good. “This team is all about action,” he said. “We’re not getting caught up in all of this. After it’s done then we show what we can do. It’s all good. I’m proud of my team. I’m proud of what we did. We came up here and we took it. They didn’t give us nothing. We took it. We’ve got to keep that approach.”
GIANTS RUNNING: The Giants offense was supposed to go through the air this season. It’s not. The running game shouldered the load, gaining 202 yards on 30 carries. Andre Brown again proved he is worthy of being the No. 1 back. He gained 127 yards on 21 carries. Brandon Jacobs added another 75 on nine carries. Manning threw for 174 yards, hitting 16 of 30.
DYNAMIC DEZ: Bryant stepped up in the biggest game of the year for Dallas, catching nine passes for 102 yards. None was bigger than his third-down catch on the final drive when he outmuscled safety Antrel Rolle on back shoulder pass. “The best players I’ve been around have been able to somehow, some way focus on the task at hand,” Garrett said. “Dez is a dynamic player.”
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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)